Family & Consumer Resources
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Most divorcing parents are very concerned about their children’s
reactions to their separation and divorce. They want to know, “Will
my child grow up to be healthy and happy?”
Sociologists and psychologists are just beginning to provide reliable
information about the effects of divorce on children. There are a
number of important factors. Research shows that the effects depend
on the age of the child at the time of divorce. It can also depend on
the child’s gender and personality, the amount of conflict between
parents and the support provided by friends and family.
Age of children
We know little about the effects of divorce on children younger than two or three years of age. Young
children do not always suffer if a divorce occurs. However, problems may occur if a close relationship or
bond between a parent and child is broken. Parents should agree on parenting and childcare
arrangements so the child does not grow up experiencing conflict between his or her parents.
Infants may not understand conflict, but may react to changes in parent’s energy level and mood. Infants may
loose their appetite or have an upset stomach and spit up more.
Children from three to five years of age frequently believe they have caused their parents’ divorce. For example,
they might think that if they had eaten their dinner or done their chores when told to do so, Daddy wouldn’t
have gone away. Preschoolers may fear being left alone or abandoned altogether. They may show baby-like
behavior, such as wanting their security blanket or old toys, or they begin wetting the bed. They may deny that
anything has changed, or they may become uncooperative, depressed, or angry. Although they want the security
of being near an adult, they may act disobedient and aggressive.
Some psychologists believe the adjustment to parental divorce is more difficult for elementary school children
than for younger or older children. Scho